Zero 2 Infinity Bloostar model

#CES2019 – Big Aerospace seeks niches

A few years ago, the automobile industry adapted CES as its first stop of the tradeshow season.  Even so, it is surprising to see more traditional aerospace firms highlight and market big-pricetag technologies in Las Vegas beside the megabooths dedicated to 8K OLED TV and silicon manufacturers pushing the latest revisions in WiFi.

Dassault Systèmes is no stranger to CES, having previously exhibited at the France section of Eureka Park, an area full of startups from around the world crammed into the lower level of the Sands Convention Center. Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE portfolio contains computer aided design (CAD) and simulation tools that power the world’s aerospace engineers.  The same technology is being applied to virtualize cities, using data analytics, design, simulation, AR/VR, AI and other tools.

New start-ups supported in 3DEXPERIENCE Lab’s Global Entrepreneur Program get special featuring by Dassault at CES.  Among the featured this year was low-cost launch effort Zero 2 Infinity.  The Barcelona, Spain-based company plans to use a large balloon to loft a rocket into the upper atmosphere. The launch vehicle then lights its engines up to carry its satellite payload into orbit.

Advantages Zero 2 Infinity touts over traditional rocketry include an easier, less stressful environment to orbit and lower cost per kilogram to orbit. The company has a long way to go, however, having only launched balloons at this point.  Zero 2 Infinity is working with a German company to provide an engine for its Bloostar vehicle, so it is probably months to year before we see an initial launch attempt. Launches will be initially conducted from Spain’s Canary Islands.

A bigger surprise at CES was Raytheon, making its first appearance at the show.  The defense and aerospace company featured a portfolio of communications, AI, image processing, and cybersecurity technologies which could be applied to the civilian world.

Free space optical – laser – communications is one area where Raytheon hopes to gain ground, with a smaller, lighter, and simplified module applicable to satellite and UAV applications. The company may also find civilian customers for image processing – a growing challenge with standard, multispectral/hyperspectral and SAR satellite constellations flooding the skies over the next few years, but it remains to be seen if Raytheon can end up building small satellites for the commercial world.  Its first SeeMe imaging satellite designed for the U.S. military was put into orbit on the Spaceflight SSO-A launch last year, but the disposable low-orbiting satellite is designed to have a lifespan of less than 60 to 90 days.

More promising is Raytheon’s investment and partnership with HawkEye360, but that’s a story outside of CES.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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